The bright, sunny walls of Altador Academy were visible almost instantly. Thunder couldn't seem to keep his eyes away from them.
"There it is," his owner, Lina, said.
"Yeah," Thunder replied. "There it is."
"Here you go, Miss," one of the Eyrie's pulling the carriage said. "Shall we wait here for you?"
"Yes, that'd be perfect. Thanks."
Lina and Thunder stepped down from the carriage, both of them carrying two large suitcases packed full of clothes and books. Other Neopets and owners were doing the same.
"What's the name of your dorm again? Dower?"
"Dowler Hall," Thunder corrected, setting one suitcase on the ground to point out the building. The girl and the Ogrin made their way towards it. A group of cheerful-looking Neopets were sitting at a table out front, and they smiled at the pair.
"Hello!" one Kyrii said. "Are you here to check in?"
"Yes," Thunder replied.
"Great. Just sign here." The Kyrii moved a list of names forward, and Thunder searched down it for his own: ThunderClap37. He signed next to it.
"Here's your room key and your mailbox key," the Kyrii said. "Do you need help finding your room?"
"I don't think so."
"Alright. Welcome to Altador Academy!"
Thunder and Lina hauled the suitcases up a set of stairs and down a hallway to the very last door at the end. Thunder pushed the key in and it turned, and then he opened the door.
The walls were almost white, but with a hint of a creamy color. The wooden floors were bare. Being a corner room, there were two windows, one above each bed.
"Wow," Lina said, sitting down at one of the desks.
"Yeah," Thunder agreed. "Wow."
"I can't believe you're going to live here." Lina turned her head slowly, taking the whole room in. "At least it's not terribly far away. You can come home to visit."
"And you can come up here, too," Thunder suggested.
Lina smiled. "I certainly can. Why don't I help you unpack?"
The suggestion was more to put-off her leaving, and Thunder knew that, but he agreed to let her help. They opened one of the suit cases and took out the sheets, covering up his bed. Lina was never really that good at making beds, but she carefully folded the blankets and tucked them in, arranging the pillow on top.
Then they took his clothes and filled his drawers. There were no overhead lights, but they had brought two lamps, which they plugged in and turned on. Thunder opened up one of the suit cases and placed his books and binders on his desk. Then he took a picture of his very large Neofamily and taped it to the wall.
"Here, Thunder, help me lift the bed. I want to put bed-raisers underneath it."
Thunder obliged and Lina slipped the black supports underneath each leg, raising the bed so that the space underneath could be used for storage.
"I wonder when your roommate will get here," Lina said. "You still haven't heard anything from them?"
"No," Thunder said. "Nothing."
They took a step back and observed the room; it was now filled with Thunder's things, or at least half of it was. But they didn't really seem to belong there yet. They somehow seemed out-of-place.
"I should have bought you a plant," Lina said. "It's always nice to have a plant at college."
For a minute, neither of them said anything. Finally, Lina sighed and turned to Thunder, smiling. Her eyes were shining in a way that told Thunder she was holding back tears.
"Well, I guess I'd better go," she said.
Thunder pulled her into a hug. "Thanks, Mom. For everything."
"Oh, you're welcome, Thunder. I'm going to miss you. But I know you'll do wonderful things here."
Finally Lina pulled away. She smiled and waved, and then was out the door, heading back towards the house in Neopia Central.
Thunder sat on the edge of his newly-made bed. He could hardly believe he was here. Was it only a couple of months ago that he was still in the pound? Back then, he didn't even know Lina. Now, she was part of his family, encouraging him to follow his dreams and helping him pay for it.
Thank goodness for that April Fool's Day prank. It was what brought him and Lina together. He would always be indebted to it.
The hallway was full of the sound of pets moving in; Thunder was tempted to go and say hello, but he also didn't want to intrude on any moments of parting like the one he had just had. Instead, he stood up to examine the door again. His name was on it, but so was another: Joseph_x4. He hadn't heard anything from his future roommate, despite multiple Neomails. Perhaps they hadn't reached him?
Thunder went back to his desk and took out his class schedule, taping it up so that he could consult it whenever he needed to. Tomorrow, Monday, he had three classes: Law and Ethics in the morning, English in the afternoon.
The blinds on both windows were drawn shut; he went to open both of them, pausing at the window above his own bed. From here, one could see the courtyard for the u-shaped residence hall and the opposite wall, covered with windows to dorm rooms much like his own. He could also see the very edge of the cafeteria.
"ThunderClap37?" someone called into his open door; Thunder turned, expecting to see his roommate.
A blue Buzz stood in the doorway. "Hi. My name is Roger. I'm the RA for your floor. I just need to check what side of the room your bed will be on."
"Oh, this side." Thunder gestured towards his bed. "Do you know when my roommate will get here?"
"I haven't heard anything from him, but most likely it will be sometime today. It may even be tomorrow, if he doesn't have morning classes." The Buzz scribbled something onto his clipboard. "Is there anything you need help with? Any questions?"
"No, I think I'm all set. Thanks."
Roger smiled at him. "Alright then. Welcome to Altador Academy!"
"Thank you," Thunder replied. He watched the RA walk down the hallway.
He was getting relatively hungry; he hadn't eaten that much for breakfast. Nerves, he thought. But now he grabbed his meal card and his room key, locked the door behind him, and walked down to the cafeteria. Who knows, maybe his roommate would be there when he got back.
The cafeteria was bustling with both Neopets and humans. Thunder walked through and grabbed a plate, adding chicken, broccoli, and macaroni and cheese.
"Hello," he greeted the cashier, putting his food on the scale.
"Hello, dearie," she said. "Did you have a nice summer?"
He handed her his card, and had a brief moment of panic; what if it didn't work? How would he eat? But it registered and she handed it back to him. "Yes, I did. Thanks."
"You're welcome." She turned to the next Neopet in line, and Thunder looked out over the cafeteria.
"Hello!" said a Tonu. "Do you want to sit with us?" He nodded to a Xweetok next to him.
"Sure!" Thunder said, happy to have someone to sit with. The three of them walked to an open table.
"My name is Craig," the Tonu said.
"And I'm Drummer," the Xweetok added.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Thunder."
"Cool name. So, are you a freshman?" Tonu asked.
"Yeah," Thunder said. "What about you?"
"Oh, we're both sophomores," Drummer supplied. "We're roommates."
"Cool! I haven't met my roommate yet."
"So, Thunder, where are you from?"
The three of them ate and chatted and exchanged contact information, both Drummer and Craig encouraging Thunder to let them know if he had any questions or needed any help.
"Well, we have to go, but see you soon!" Drummer said, waving goodbye.
"Okay. See you later." Thunder walked back into Dowler hall. It suddenly occurred to him that this is where he would be living this year. This is where he would study, make friends, eat food.
His roommate still wasn't here, but Thunder laid down on his bed and stared at the ceiling. This was his room. This is where his education would happen.
Lina would be wondering about him; he wrote her a quick Neomail, saying that everything was fine and the food was pretty good and he had met two new friends. He would send it later.
He let out a shaky breath, and then smiled. Whatever would come, he'd be ready.